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Joan, you are right to be concerned. Communication skills are the most highly leveraged skills in business and in life. While technical competency, credentials, or know-how get us in the door, it’s our ability to influence that determines longer term success.

 

The fact that the two of you are colleagues should not deter you from offering insight and information that could benefit her.  The truth is, we all need feedback to grow.  And I can’t think of a better source of feedback then from a close and trusted colleague.  In fact, use this intention as your opening line:

 

“Name, I have an observation for you that I think will help you.  May I share it?”

 

Next you will give her very specific feedback that you observed (use a caring tone).  Here is the formula that I use:

  1. state your observations
  2. answer the “so what” question
  3. offer praise and/or empathy
  4. make a suggestion

For example: 

  1.  “Yesterday at our meeting, when your idea was challenged, I noticed your confidence erode.  I saw it in your face and your body language, and even in the sound of your voice.
  2.  It’s a pattern I’ve noticed previously which is why I’m bringing this to your attention (or,  I recognized it because this is something that I’ve struggled with myself). 
  3. I know it can be difficult to stand strong in the face of opposition, even as a bright and competent professional, which you are. 
  4. Have you considered taking assertive communication training, or hiring a coach to work with you in this area?”  or “Here are the resources that I used to help me in this area…”

 Joan, I am willing to bet that she will respond with acknowledgement and appreciation.  People know when their confidence is low.  They struggle with it internally and silently.  Putting it on the table, without judgment, and offering suggestions is a kind and supportive act.

 

In the rare event that she responds defensively, simply drop it.  Your objective is not to demand improvement, or to be “right”.  Back out gracefully with something like: “I see that I have offended you and that was not my intention.  My intention was to offer support.  I apologize if I overstepped my bounds.” 

  

Thank you for your question. ..Deb

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